Solberg storms into the early lead in Greece
17 June 2011
Citroen privateer Petter Solberg got his Acropolis Rally off to the perfect start this morning, winning both stages to build a 20.3 second lead.
Solberg, who was second quickest in the pre-event shakedown yesterday, edged out Jari-Matti Latvala by just 0.5 seconds in the opening stage, the 23.60 kilometre-run through Thiva 1.
In SS2 however, the 39.10 km Elatia test, he beat the Finn by a massive 19.8 seconds and he now heads into the mid-day RSZ (remote service zone) with a very nice cushion.
“So far, so good,” said the 2003 World Rally champion. “I am in the lead and I don't have problems - things are working out well. I will try to keep the same pace but in the next stage I must not push too much. It is going to be hard.”
Latvala, who was second best in both stages, was happy with his performance in Thiva, but less pleased with how things went in Elatia: “The opening stage went well and I quickly found a good feeling with the car, despite a couple of small mistakes,” said Ford Abu Dhabi WRT man. “I was confident going into the next test but I couldn't find the same kind of rhythm.
“The last time I drove those roads was in 2003 and I couldn't remember them. It was a hard stage to recce and perhaps my pace notes were too hesitant. It's a good start though and this afternoon I'll try to maintain the same level of speed.
"The heat inside the cockpit wasn't too bad. On several occasions rocks hit the underside of the car. I need to raise the car's ride height, but I don't want to lose traction so the key is to find a compromise,” he added.
Mikko Hirvonen is next up in the sister 'works' Fiesta RS WRC car, 6.2 seconds adrift, after posting the fifth best time in SS1 and the third best in SS2.
“I'm happy with the morning,” he insisted. “My aim today is to stay in contact at the front and make sure nobody breaks clear so that I'm in a good position for tomorrow. I hit a bank near the end of the first stage and was worried I may have punctured a tyre, but it was fine.
“The second stage was a mix of slippery, loose sections and hard, compact roads where conditions were dry. The next stage is the roughest of the rally so we'll raise the car's height a little.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile lies fourth, another 6 seconds or so back - and just 1.2 seconds up on his Citroen team-mate and fellow countryman, Sebastien Ogier. Loeb was eighth in the opening test and fourth in SS2, despite losing time sweeping the road. He also had an issue with the electronic display on his DS3 WRC.
“We are going to reset the electronics now,” Loeb explained. “We lost gear and rpm display, but it didn't cause major problems. It was slippery because we were first on the stage. I'm doing my best although it is difficult.”
“It has been okay so far,” Ogier added. “We lost time in SS2 due to a [slow] puncture. We will start with a new tyre now and try harder.”
Further back, Mads Ostberg heads his M-Sport Stobart team-mate, Matthew Wilson in sixth, 11.6 seconds splitting the two. Wilson was fourth quickest in SS1, but lost a little time with a spin in SS2: “Everything is fine,” said the Brit. “I guess we pushed a bit too hard [in SS2]. We had a problem with the gearshift lever, but everything would have been good if we hadn't had the spin. I am relaxed though - and I'm having fun.”
Henning Solberg completes the top eight on his return after missing Rally Argentina, ahead of SWRC class leader Ott Tanak and F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen.
Raikkonen has sat out the last two WRC events and is clearly still getting back up to speed. He was 12th fastest in the opening stage and 10th in SS2: “We will not change the set-up,” said the Citroen man, “we will just try to fix the steering [after hitting a big hole in the road].”
There were no notable retirements, although M-Sport Stobart man Evgeny Novikov did lose a lot of time in SS2 when he damaged his suspension - a real shame as the Russian had been very quick in SS1 and impressively posted the third best time. He managed to limp to the end of SS2, but it is unclear if he will be able to start SS3.
The action now continues this afternoon with four stages on the bill, including a second-run through Thiva. SS3, the 18.10 km Eleftherohori test, now starts at 13.39 hours local time [11.39 hours UK time].
Acropolis Rally: Overall standings after Stage 2 (Top 10):
1. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC 44mins 22.5secs M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 20.3secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 26.5secs M
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 32.1secs M
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 34.2secs M
6. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 42.1secs M
7. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 53.7secs M
8. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 55.6secs
9. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 26.6secs S
10. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +01mins 30.8secs M
11. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 40.9secs S
12. Armindo Araujo Mini John Cooper Works +01mins 57.2secs
13. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 57.2secs S
14. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 08.3secs M
15. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS +02mins 17.8secs M
17. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 32.7secs M
22. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works +03mins 58.9secs M
28. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 16.4secs
SWRC standings after Stage 2 (Top 3):
1. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 45mins 49.1secs S
2. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 14.3secs S
3. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 41.2secs S
all times unofficial